AAD fast-roping exercise goes wrong

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The senior Department of Defence (DoD) communication officer yesterday (Thursday, 22 September) “confirmed an incident” at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof with injuries.

A blandly worded statement issued by the Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) has it the “member” – in all probability a 6 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion, supposedly the specialist air assault unit of the landward force, infantry soldier – “fell onto the ground during a co-ordinated practice as they were partaking in preparatory aerobics for the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2022 exhibition, and sustained head injuries (sic)”.

A video shows soldiers dropping ropes from a hovering Oryx and then fast-roping to set up either a defensive perimeter or move off before regrouping. The second soldier in the stick of four loses grip and falls badly to ground.

The soldier was airlifted, reportedly to Montana Hospital about 20 km north-east of the Centurion air base, where neurological assessments were to be done.

According to the statement, attributable to Department of Defence (DoD) head of communication (HOC) Siphiwe Dlamini, “details of this incident are still sketchy and members of the media will be updated once all circumstances surrounding an incident have been established (sic)”.

An unconfirmed report on Friday morning had it the soldier died.

This was refuted by Dlamini in a second statement who said the soldier’s “alleged death” was wrong.

It reads, in part: “After the unfortunate incident, the Gauteng Emergency Medical Service (GEMS) paramedic in collaboration with the SA Military Health Services (SAHMS) medical team stabilised the injured member who was then flown in a SA Air Force (SAAD) Oryx helicopter to a hospital in Pretoria where he underwent further medical procedures. The member is alive and has been stabilised but remains in a critical condition”.